Local group lends helping hand to those in need

October 10, 2003|ANN R. HARNEY


Everyone in Danville regards Rosemary Hamblin as a good cook.

Now everyone on the Yakima Indian Reservation has sampled dishes prepared by one of the owners of The Tea Leaf.

She was among nine members of Danville First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) who made up the first adult mission group from that church. They spent a week at the Yakima Christian Mission on the reservation.

Less than a month after returning from a mission trip to a reservation in the state of Washington, the participants got together last week to discuss the trip and talk about a possible trip next year.

The 1.2 million-acre reservation is home to 8,000 American Indians and Hispanics. The mission has been on the reservation since the early 1920s.


Janet Hagley, Rosemary Hamblin, Elmer Jackson, Suzi Jackson, Julie Jones, Nadene May, Nancy McMurry, Bob Rheingans and the Rev. Lance Perry, senior pastor at the church, flew to Seattle Wash., on Sept. 6.

From there, they took vans on a three-hour drive to the reservation to begin a week of service to the residents of the reservation. Their work began almost immediately after they arrived. As much as possible, they lived in the culture of their neighbors there, including their food.

They slept in bunk beds in rooms on each side of the Log Church and they had to go to another building to take a shower, Perry said.

Their work included organizing a clothing bank and organizing school supplies that had been donated by Disciples churches across the country.

They helped restore a building and created an apartment for the church's pastor. At the same time, Vision Builders, a part of Volunteers in Missions, was building a new church. Vision Builders was described as a Habitat for Humanity for churches.

Work in the apartment included hanging drywall and painting it and cutting new doorways. The doors had been damaged because they were hung so they got the brunt of the wind in the area. It is hoped that reversing them will save them from the damage caused by the wind. The members of the trip said the weather was warm during the day and cool at night, and almost always windy.

The group bought supplies needed for the buildings and they also bought paint supplies for future work on the building and apartment. In addition, they left a gift certificate to buy what other supplies might be needed.

Helping them was Esteban Perez, a teenager who is learning construction both from the missions and the trade-school education he has begun.

The Danville group also divided into two teams, one to conduct the twice-daily worship service and the other to do the cooking. They took turns performing those tasks.

The trip was financed by donations from church members, Bible school and Sunday school classes. One donation came from a surprising source. Rheingans said he was talking about the trip on the airplane taking them to Seattle. Without being asked, a passenger sitting in front of him handed him a $10 bill to add to the funds needed for the trip.

Though the land is arid, a large variety of fruit is raised on the eastern part of the reservation and there is a lumber mill. They thrive because there is extensive irrigation. Hogs are raised to provide meat for the residents.

The Yakima Valley has 300 days of sunshine a year. The valley boundaries include the Cascade Mountains and Mount Rainier. The residents have given the mountains sacred names.

The sale of fresh fruit and lumber provide the income for the reservation, but it isn't enough to allay the poverty and the problems it engenders. The average life expectancy is in the mid-40s, a result of poverty, lack of medical care and good nutrition and alcoholism. In the small town of White Swan there is a clinic, gasoline station, post office and school.

The land is owned by the Yakima Nation Indians and they are the only people who have access to all of the reservation. Thirty percent of the residents are American Indians, 30 percent are of Hispanic heritage and 30 percent are white.

The remaining 10 percent is made up of African Americans and Pacific Islanders and Asians. Many of the Hispanic people came to the reservation to harvest the fruit grown in the orchards.

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